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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Juneteenth Poster Contest

By Ginny Perrin, Chair of the Civil Rights Commission

Photo credits: Lori Rosario-Griffin

When Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, it was an incredibly powerful moment in history. It is only the second federal holiday in our country that specifically recognizes the black American experience in our nation’s history. 

Juneteenth is a day of celebration, a marker of independence from a foundational wrong upon which our country was built and it serves as an acknowledgment that even as laws are passed to create greater equality, systemic racism continues. It reminds us that although our country celebrates July 4th, 1776 as our Independence Day, not all Americans were allowed the liberty to live free and independently. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863 declaring freedom for enslaved people, it would take over two more years for actual freedom to reach the last of the holdout states.  Many Americans were not taught the importance of Juneteenth in schools and communities while others have celebrated Juneteenth as the Nation’s true Independence Day for over 150 years.

This year, the Rutherford Civil Rights Commission hosted a Juneteenth poster contest open to all Rutherford students with the support of Rutherford’s Superintendent, Mr. Hurley, the faculty, and PTA organizations. The theme was Juneteenth Then and Now.  The artwork that the students created was truly impressive.  Some teachers in the district chose to use the contest as a class project for research and furthering understanding and you can see the information gathered in the students’ work.

Mayor and Council and Civil Rights Commission Members with the Juneteenth Contest Winners

One of the student artists spoke of Juneteenth today as a day of opportunity to educate and address racism issues that exist around us.   This student’s statement sums up the hopes and goals of the Civil Rights Commission for this and future Juneteenths in Rutherford. The Commission is looking forward to continued partnership with our schools and community organizations to build programming to educate our youth about the rich history of the black community in Rutherford and surrounding areas and address the continued systemic challenges woven into our societal norms that black and brown folks continue to face every day.  

As people view the art created, we hope it is a reminder that this is indeed a day to celebrate.  It is also a day to remember that our history as a nation is complex and not equal for all.  It is a day to create opportunities for educating, building awareness, and promoting discussions. The Civil Rights Commission hopes that this poster contest is just the beginning of great things to come.

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